Aside from the obvious, how does MLB’s decision to delay the start of the season due to the Coronavirus affect the Houston Astros?
What grew to seem inevitable once the NBA suspended its season has now finally happened. MLB has officially suspended the remainder of Spring Training and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks due to the Coronavirus. This will have vast and far-reaching effects on everyone in the sport, but there are some specific ramifications for the Houston Astros.
Obviously it means there won’t be any games in the near future, and it means many young players who were still trying to earn roster spots or gain valuable experience are either losing that opportunity or stuck in limbo. The storylines that were expected to be resolved in Spring Training are now hanging out there.
How the team proceeds with its eventual 26-man roster construction is yet to be determined, and Climbing Tal’s Hill will have plenty of analysis on that as we wait for games to resume. We extend our best wishes to the Astros and to our readers and remind everyone to protect themselves and stay well during this crazy time.
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Now without further ado, here are some unique effects the MLB shutdown will have on the Astros and the Houston faithful.
Verlander, Alvarez Can Get Healthy
While it had been believed that Justin Verlander would miss Opening Day thanks to a lat strain, it’s possible that won’t be the case anymore. No one is happy about this Coronavirus outbreak, of course, but the silver lining is it would give Verlander more time to recover.
The same holds true for Yordan Alvarez, who’s been nursing sore knees and still didn’t have a definite return date. He might not have missed Opening Day anyway, but the extra rest would probably do him some good. Hopefully, both of these key players are rested and ready to go whenever the season eventually starts.
Hopefully No Empty Stadiums
While much is still yet to be determined, the hope is that when the games do resume, they won’t have to be played in empty stadiums. This is good news to the Astros and the Houston fans, as Minute Maid Park is one of the game’s best home field advantages when the juice box is full.
Of course, this could be a double-edged sword in that the Astros won’t be able to escape opposing fan jeers and taunts on the road. Rabid fans in New York and Los Angeles may still get their opportunity to voice their displeasure in person, though the players will hopefully just be able to tune it out.
Roster Battles Up in the Air
The Astros and manager Dusty Baker will have to make some decisions before the regular season begins, and they’ll have to do it without the benefit of a full Spring Training. There are some bullpen spots up for grabs and the 26th spot on the roster as well, but the biggest decisions will be for the starting rotation.
Jose Urquidy, Josh James, Austin Pruitt, and Framber Valdez were all jockeying for two rotation spots (or three if Verlander is out). Pruitt has the edge in overall run prevention among the four, but it’s hard to say that any one or two of them are head and shoulders above the others. It could come down to how they look in whatever individual workouts they do in the interim and any bullpen sessions leading up to the start of the season.
MLB still has decisions to make about how to handle the Coronavirus outbreak and when to resume activities. In the meantime, we’ll keep our focus on the Astros and wait with bated breath for the eventual start of the regular season.